The Slight Rise and Massive Fall of Trent Richardson

After three seasons of disappointment, Trent Richardson is now practicing on special teams. What happened?

"Trent Richardson practices on Colts' punt coverage."

If you read that headline on yesterday, you probably had the same reaction I did. (This was mine).

Trent Richardson, the third-overall draft selection in 2012, is a special teamer. As Chris Johnson would put it, he don't even be in the game.

What in the world has happened?

Was He Ever Good?

I'll try to keep this short and sweet, since I know it's Friday and you've hopefully got better things to do than read what I have to say about a special teamer.

Trent Richardson was never good at the NFL level. He's played three seasons now in the league, and he's never been good. Raw statistics may tell you that he was a solid option for Cleveland during his rookie year, but raw numbers don't exactly tell us the entire story.

Enter Net Expected Points (NEP), a metric we use at numberFire to help distinguish how well a player performs above or below expectation. Gaining 10 yards on a 3rd-and-9 is much bigger and more important than gaining 10 on a 4th-and-24, for instance. Net Expected Points helps capture that. You can read more about it in our glossary.

Below are Trent Richardson's Rushing Net Expected Points numbers through the first three seasons of his career.

YearRush NEPPer RushSuccess Rate
2012-17.80 (25th of 29)-0.07 (22nd of 29)40.45% (21st of 29)
2013-27.14 (33rd of 35)-0.14 (33rd of 35)36.70% (28th of 35)
2014-13.95 (25th of 32)-0.09 (27th of 32)36.88% (24th of 32)

The rankings that coincide with his numbers are among rushers in that season with at least 150 rushes. Trent Richardson, in other words, has yet to be a high-volume running back that ranks any higher than about the 20th percentile in the NFL.

Remember, the Browns took him third overall in 2012. And the Colts then traded a first-round pick for him.

During Richardson's three-year career, he's watched teammates Montario Hardesty (2012, 65 rushes), Donald Brown (2013, 102 rushes), Boom Herron (2014, 78 rushes) and Ahmad Bradshaw (2014, 91 rushes) receive significant touches in a shared backfield. This means these players, at a high level, were under the same circumstances Richardson was.

Each of them finished with a higher Rushing Net Expected Points total and Rushing Net Expected Points per attempt average than Trent Richardson did.

Is it really a surprise that he's working on special teams in practice?